Bullet Points: Chato’s Land
One of the things that led to the creation of Bulletproof Action was my knowledge of Chris the Brain’s love for Charles Bronson. I had the idea for some time before its existence but had little to no skill in terms of creating the site so I contacted Brain and we decided to create the greatest website in the history of the internet!
Whether you agree with the above statement or not, there aren’t many other places on the web where you’ll find such an abundance of Charles Bronson-related articles. It really is one of the things I’m most proud of for this site. And this is all coming from the guy who wasn’t a mega-fan! What I am a mega-fan of, though, is the amount of destruction that one man can bring down on some people who have wronged him. There was plenty of that in Chato’s Land.
Synopsis: In 1870s New Mexico, a half-breed kills a bigoted sheriff in self-defense but the posse that eventually hunts him finds itself in dangerous territory.
- Can a man get a drink: Like any other 70’s Western, not much is known about the exact year or geographical placement of the action as the movie begins. We know it’s a frontier town and Charles Bronson’s Chato is a half-breed Apache standing in a saloon being berated by the racist, dickhead sheriff. If the sheriff had been wearing a body cam they would be replaying the video of Chato spinning in a flash and blasting the fat sheriff with his six shooter. So much for that drink.
- Posse fever: The men of the town immediately start gathering with plans to hunt down the “breed” and stretch his neck. Recent raids on frontier towns, often done by several different tribes including Apache, Comanche, Kiowa, and other Great Plains and Southwestern tribes had driven the inhabitants into a state of fear-anger. They didn’t care why the sheriff was shot or who was to blame, all they knew was that Chato pulled the trigger and he was going to be a dead man.
- Jack Palance: Any movie with Jack Palance automatically overflows with machismo. Imagine my joy when the head of the posse dusts off his old Confederate uniform, stares at it longingly, and then shares a few words of motivation on how they’ll capture and kill Chato. Confederates are on that list of instant villains for most movies. If a guy puts on a Rebel uniform or starts talking about the war, he is probably not going to end up as the hero in the movie. Palance takes command of the posse and leads them around for the first 30 minutes of the film, bolstering their numbers with rapers, immigrants, and a Mexican scout who is hated almost as much as the Apache.
- Someone needs to shoot Earl: The one man amongst the hunters who needs scalped the most is Earl Hooker. Played by the late Richard Jordan, Earl takes the cake on being the worst guy among a group of not-so-great guys. His introduction consists of him trying to bed down his kin before being chased off by his older brother who isn’t much better than him. The entire Hooker family needs to take a long walk off a short pier. You can be sure that Chato learns to hate them even more than the Johnny Reb Jack Palance.
- The Apache Way: As the posse gets led further into the desert plains, they start to realize Chato might not just be running away. It gets pretty obvious when he scares away some of their horses, sabotages their water supply and begins picking them off slowly. Chato strikes fast and is off and out of range before they are able to retaliate. It all adds up to the harsh elements doing much of the work for Chato as the posse starts to unravel at the seams.
- Family: The saddest parts of Chato’s Land is when the posse comes upon Chato’s lady. With such a group of horrible men you can imagine what they might do to a young and beautiful Apache woman. Luckily, Chato and one of his kin are able to fight back and it all adds up to the vengeance being ramped up to an 11.
- Kill or be Killed: The final showdown between the remnants of the posse and Chato is pretty great. There is no doubt whose house they’re in. Chato barely has any lines of dialogue during the movie and only one that I can remember in English. What that means is that he has to do way more with his facial expressions and his lean, ripped body. Bronson kicks serious ass in this one!
Every Bronson picture deserves a little extra Bullet Points:
- Chato has a wide range of weapons. Rattlesnake to the face; check. Bonfire on a guy’s cock; check. Long range snipe; double check.
- Chato’s Land does a good job of showing just how relentless the environment was in that part of the West. Without a horse you were as good as dead.
- While the Comanche were probably the most elite cavalry in the world, rarely ever dismounting in a battle. The neighboring Apache preferred to fight on foot.
The Verdict: As much as I enjoy Charles Bronson the vigilante, or Charles Bronson the detective, Charles Bronson the half-breed Apache is also pretty damned sweet. The movie drags a bit during the first act as the posse set out for Chato but it does a great job of introducing us to all the members of the posse while Chato stays very mysterious throughout most of the film. He hardly talks so we only see him really interact with the guys that he kills and then later with his family. An empathic person or one who isn’t totally racist against Indians can see that he isn’t at fault for the death of the sheriff, but 1870’s frontiersmen weren’t about to think logically when it came to that sort of thing. Chato’s Land was a welcome addition to my growing body of Western reviews and should be a part of your movie collection if only to see Bronson’s amazing tan.